Bridging Manila’s Chinatown and Intramuros: The Belt and Road Initiative and Its Consequences for Historic Districts
The notion of cultural heritage as both medium and outcome of sustainable development draws attention to how issues of heritage preservation and those of infrastructure and economic development are entwined. In this paper, we will analyze the challenges and opportunities that a proposed bridge project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative is presenting to the historic districts of Binondo, the Philippines’ main Chinatown, and Intramuros, the heart of the country’s Spanish colonial heritage. In this analysis of the nexus of cultural heritage and physical infrastructure, we will focus on the interplay among the material dimension, social competences, and institutions that frame cultural heritage preservation and promotion practices in these two districts. This emphasis will highlight the role of the Philippine state— which, at varying times and circumstances and as a central actor, can be distant, weak, strong, cunning, or inconsistent. Invariably, the revitalization of historic districts requires actors to socially navigate through diverse constellations of interest and to bring together the modalities of heritage preservation, and infrastructure and economic development as being two sides that support one another.
Architecture; Belt and Road Initiative; Chinatown; cultural and social technologies; heritage and infrastructure nexus; Manila; Philippines; Philippine state; practice theory